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R2 review Vol 2 27, 2011 Oz Hardwick

‘I don’t want to come here – backstreet pub / in the bleak hours after a sound-check’ (‘Malloy As Cult Figure’). So says Malloy, one of the Everyman musicians that stumble through this latest poetry collection by Anglo-Irish poly-wordsmith Nick Burbridge. But it is a forlorn hope in this world of shady alleys and insalubrious watering holes populated by the scraps, orts and fragments of Broken Britain™’s soft black underbelly.

Unsentimental yet sympathetic and deeply humane, Burbridge’s work has been praised for its ‘emotional grit’ but, of course, when grit is viewed in the right light it can shine like diamonds. Such is the verse here, where simple attendance at the football can become ‘unmediated acts of focus, / faith and ritual that entwine lives / separately unwinding’ (‘Short Cuts: Home And Away’), offering rare moments of social cohesion for the knowingly dispossessed.

With imagery as dense as blood clots, Burbridge imbues the cadences of demotic speech with the whisky-breathed lilt of the fiddle or the glass-eyed slur of the needle to hold a mirror to 21st-century British urban life with more incisive results than any number of government working parties could ever hope to attain.

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